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Michigan House OKs Banning Online Absentee Applications, SOS Mailings

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Republican-controlled Michigan House voted Thursday to prohibit digital signatures on absentee ballot applications and to ban unsolicited mailings of applications to voters, advancing more election bills that are unlikely to be signed by the Democratic governor.

In 2020, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson began enabling voters to apply for a ballot online. They can authorize the state to send their stored signature to their local clerk. They also must provide their driver's license or state ID number, their birth date, eye color and the last four digits of their Social Security number.

One measure, approved 58-43 and sent to the Republican-led Senate, would require applicants to physically sign their application — requiring those who apply online to print, sign and mail, email or fax it back.

Another bill that passed 56-45 would ban the secretary of state from sending ballot applications to voters and let clerks do so only when they get a request. Benson in 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic, mailed applications to millions of voters who were not already on permanent local lists and automatically receiving them.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a similar proposed ban on unsolicited mailings last year.

Democrats said the latest bills would suppress voting, while Republicans said they would make it more secure.

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